Clive Barker has had excellent luck with film adaptations, as I pointed out in a recent article. Candyman is possibly the second best adaptation after Hellraiser. The Midnight Meat Train is one of the best features based on a Barker story within the past ten years. They’re both great, but what if I told you we could have had them both in the same movie?
Backing up, Candyman was a hit that nobody really expected. While they were hoping for the best, Columbia wasn’t really sure how it was going to play. It wasn’t something that clearly and explicitly left itself open to a sequel. The movie was based on Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” updated from the slums of London to the Chicago ghetto. When Candyman proved to be a success, that was when serious talk of a sequel began. The idea was that if the first film was based on a Clive Barker short story, the second should be too.
So director Bernard Rose went back to Barker’s Books of Blood collection and found the short story “The Midnight Meat Train.” He explains his plans for the unmade sequel in some detail in his appearance on The Movie Crypt podcast. The urban, self-contained slasher elements of that story felt perfect as a companion piece to Candyman and the idea seemed to be to replace the killer of the story, Mahogany, with the Candyman himself. There were apparently many more twists and turns to the story as well. This sequel would shift the action back to the London setting of the original “Forbidden” story and would reveal a larger conspiracy that included the fact that Queen Elizabeth was actually a cannibal.
While this seems totally out-of-left-field, it’s not that different from the ending of the actual “Midnight Meat Train” story. It ends by revealing that all of Mahogany’s violent crimes are actually done in service to ancient demons called the City Fathers who require blood sacrifices to keep the trains running on time, so to speak. From the sound of it, with everything Rose described about his idea, this film would have seen the Candyman perform a similar service, or at least be somehow tied to the supernatural, strange founders of the city.
Ultimately, Bernard Rose turned down Candyman 2 when he was offered the chance to move onto greener pastures with the Gary Oldman-starring Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. It was a smart move for his career, as the film wound up garnering Oscar nominations.
Rose’s idea would have made for an interesting movie, to be sure. I would have loved to see how these two Barker stories would be combined together and would truly love to get my hands on that script. Ultimately, though, I think things turned out for the best. While Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is a much more straightforward sequel, I don’t think it’s a bad one by any stretch. It also introduced Barker to Bill Condon and the two would go on to make the Academy Award winning Gods and Monsters together. Midnight Meat Train is also an excellent film in its own right and it’s nice to have a reasonably faithful adaptation of that story.
Surprisingly, despite its success and Tony Todd’s willingness to play the character, Candyman is one of the shortest franchises in recent memory. There are only three entries and the last one was made in 1999. There have been several attempts to get another sequel off the ground in the years since the disappointing Candyman 3: Day of the Dead. Some of them sounded interesting, others will probably make us incredibly thankful that they never saw the light of day.
One of the more interesting ideas saw the Candyman haunting one of his descendants at a secluded all-girl school. But then there were also ideas like Candyman vs. Leprechaun, which sounds like some random status or poll someone would make on the internet just to be funny. According to Todd, however, it came dangerously close to happening, just after Freddy vs. Jason came out and Lionsgate happened to own both franchises at the time. While the actor was interested in the former idea, he flat-out turned the latter down.
In recent years, talk has shifted to the possibility of a Candyman remake, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Very little is known about it, even now. It’s unclear if it ever made it past the idea stage. Not only was there the expected talk of replacing Tony Todd, there was discussion of the idea that the new Candyman would not actually be black. This was discussed under the pretense of keeping true to the source material, where the Candyman was neither black nor white but sort of a multicolored entity. I think to keep some consistency with the original, though, it would be smart to keep the character black even if the story is moved back to the UK.
Still, I don’t think I have to worry too much because the remake has been dead in the water for the past couple years and at this point I don’t actually think it’s ever going to happen.